Tampa protestors rally against American Involvement in Syria listen09/09/13 Naveen Sultan
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More than 100 people gathered in South Tampa on Saturday near MacDill Air Force Base to rally against U.S. military intervention in Syria. The protest was organized by St. Pete for Peace and the Syrian American Forum.
The four corners of the intersection of Gandy Blvd and South Dale Mabry Highway were surrounded by protesters holdings signs asking for peace, waving Syrian and American flags and chanting loudly as cars drove pass them.
There were a mix of people crowded together on the sidewalk. Many of them were Syrian Americans such as Amer Baghajati who helped organized the protest and a member of the Syrian American Forum, a national organization that wants to educate Americans on the Syrian crisis. Baghajati said America intervening will lead to further destruction of a country that is already in the middle of a civil war.
"This airstrike is only going to make things worse. There are only going to be more innocent people dying. It's not going to help the US government - it's not going to help the Syrian crisis to get solved. The only way to solve this situation back in Syria is through diplomacy."
Bassel Ichoa stood with his friends using a bullhorn to chant in Arabic. He said his biggest concern about the crisis is his family that's still in Syria.
"I have my family there - I have my friends there. I always contact them and they tell what the situation is there. They tell us we are not ready to this war because we suffering - please stop the war, please stop the war."
Mohammad Ibrahim held a green-starred red, white and black Syrian flag in his hands. He's a doctor who moved to America 25 years ago. Ibrahim said he is against an American airstrike because the Middle East has suffered through many unjustified wars this past decade. He also said he is certain that there is no solid proof that the government used chemical weapons and that Syria is defending themselves against an invasion of rebels that are linked with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
"I was in Syria just a couple of weeks ago. I came and I spent about three weeks, my kids spent about 3 months in there and actually when this chemical weapons happened we were walking out of Syria through Lebanon and we know the stories about who really used the chemical weapons. We don't think we know who used it - I am very sure and all the people in Syria know that Al-Qaeda fighters what they call fighters, they are terrorists -- that's the way we call them. That's the people who used the chemical weapons."
Ibrahim said that American involvement will lead to the rise of terrorism and the division of Syria, something his people don't want to see.
"We live between Christian, Sunni, and all different entities of people in Syria and we all lived together for 40 years we all experienced security in there so this is very new for us. We don't want this to happen. I can't believe the United States is supporting Al-Qaeda. We all remember what happened in 9/11 and who actually did 9/11."
Melissa Baird works with St. Pete for Peace. She said the best way to address this crisis is by taking a humanitarian approach and feels American security is in danger if the military gets involved.
"I think we are going to be into World War Three. We've got ships coming in from Russia and from China. We've got Iran already saying that they're going to attack the U.S. Consulates and come after Americans and it's just not right for us to start World War 3 this way."
Another protestor, Deborah Baker, said that she's frustrated with Obama's decisions as President and wishes that the administration would use peace and diplomacy as a method to ensure national security.
"Oh it's crazy! I can't believe we have a supposedly sane president who wants to start yet another war in a tinder box, nothing good can come of this, you can only make people mad. How are you going to say that you're for peace -- for not killing people -- when you're bombing somebody?"
President Obama will address the nation tomorrow to push for the approval of a military airstrike on Syria. The U.S. Congress is debating the issue this week. The organizers are planning another protest for Syria next Saturday at 6:00 PM at Gandy Blvd. And South Dale Mabry Highway.
For more information on upcoming protests click on the links below: